Tag Archives: strawberries

A summer lunch for friends

I’m afraid my blog has been somewhat neglected over the past week or two. First it was jam making that took my attention, then a visit from friends over from France, the teens end of term shenanigans and a visit from granny. The week was rounded off with some ‘proper’ work (two days of non-food related teaching to prepare for next week). Wearing so many hats is a tiring business!!

Finally, I have reclaimed my computer (from the teen and my mother) finished my teaching presentation and now I can get back to the thing I do best, talking and cooking food.

Busy or not I gain great pleasure from playing host and sharing good food with good friends. We started the week with a scorching barbecue at another friends house. Bloody Mary burgers (a la Hugh FW) with creamy horseradish, mackerel caught on the Saturday with lime and herbs and chicken and maple kebabs. I made a box of lavish cupcakes for the kids, of which there were many, but they almost had to go to war with the adults to get a look in.

Two days later it was back to mine for lunch. There are times when I really don’t want to slave over a hot stove, especially on a lovely sunny day, so on this occasion I wanted to keep things simple. With a tired 18 month old and a new baby in the house, quick was definitely best. Not just that, but neither did I wish to be chained to the kitchen when I really wanted to spend as much time as possible holding the baby!! In fact the last thing any of us needed was a long drawn out lunch, particularly our friends as they had so many people to catch up with.

I opted for a couple of hearty salads, two tarts and an easy but decadent pudding of chopped strawberries, macerated with a few glugs of home-made loganberry vodka and a tablespoon of caster sugar, which have been left for at least an hour and served with a good dollop of thick double cream.

These offered the perfect solution; filling, yet light; simple, but full of delicious flavour.  I prepared the tarts the night before, which made things even easier.

For the fillings I used ricotta, Isle of Wight tomatoes and fresh basil from my veg box and for the other with smoked bacon, chorizo and Dragon Caerphilly cheese. Both were as good the next day and all I had to do on the day was warm them quickly in the oven. The salads assembled in no time, which left me free to chat and cluck and coo over the beautiful Alexia (even better I could give her back at the end!!)

Alexia and Dad

For two 7 inch tarts I used 150g  plain flour and 50g spelt flour (which I like using because it makes a nice crisp case) sifted with a good pinch of salt. I then rubbed in 100g butter, mixing to a loose dough with some ice-cold water. Wrapping it in cling film, it was then placed in the fridge to rest for half an hour.

I then lined two tart tins with pastry, cut two circles of greaseproof paper just larger than the tins and placed them on top of the pastry and filled the tins with baking beans. It’s not essential to buy packs of special beans, mine are simply a mixture of dried pulses, rice and a lentils, now baked a hundred times!! Bake for about ten minutes on 200 degree, then remove the paper and beans and cook for another 10 minutes until set and beginning to brown slightly. Allow to cool a little while you make or prepare the fillings.

For the bacon and chorizo tart I fried a few rashers of chopped bacon and half a mild chorizo (skin removed) in a little olive oil.  I spread this over the base of the first case then sprinkled over some crumbly Caerphilly cheese. For the other I covered the base of the case with sliced tomatoes, spooned over a few tablespoons of ricotta cheese, then added a layer of roughly torn basil leaves.

My measurements and quantities for the egg and cream mix are always a bit make-it-up-as-you-go-along. I used five large eggs whisked together in a jug and then topped up with enough single cream to make enough filling to fill both tarts. I seasoned this with salt and pepper, gave it a good whisk and then poured it into each case until pretty much full.

Serve with salads of your choice as a lunch or supper dish, or as part of a bigger buffet or summer meal.

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Out with the old and in with the new: a seasonal solstice supper

the end of the night...this time lots of food pics, but no people!!!

Now that midsummer is upon us and half the year is already gone, its time to bid farewell to some of my favourite early produce. Asparagus, which only pays a fleeting visit, sadly finished cropping this week and it seems the strawberries at Moelyci have almost finished too. I’m sure elsewhere they will continue for a while yet but I’m glad I have used and preserved plenty. But before I start to pine for these wonderful summer treasures, it’s a happy hello to all the rest of the joys of June. Redcurrants are plentiful in the fruit fields of Moelyci and in my garden at home; elder flowers are still with us and a new batch of black currants are on their way. I have been out collecting plenty of the elder flowers this week for cordial, champagne and to use in the dessert I made for supper club.

I also paid visits to my three favourite vegetable suppliers: Pippa and John who give me my weekly veg box currently have an abundance of beetroot, tender courgettes, sweet young carrots, new potatoes, lettuce, a variety of chard, basil; Paul at Moelyci who has all that wonderful fruit in the market garden shop as well as lettuces ready for harvesting and lots of fresh parsley (something I don’t have much luck with) and Hootons farm shop, which is where I’ve got my asparagus, and now they also have broad beans too.   All those vegetables have kept me busy chutneying, and I did have a good few jars of spiced courgette and beetroot relish until I sold it all on Sunday, but that’s another story! I also finally got round to bottling all the liqueurs that have lurked in the back of my cupboard since the beginning of March (Creme de Cassis, raspberry vodka, loganberry vodka and sloe gin) as I wanted to crack open the Cassis for supper club.

Supper club was also the perfect opportunity to try out my new toy. Inspired by Dave’s smoking exploits at Derimon I ordered myself a little Cameron’s stove top smoker; they aren’t cheap at £43 a go for a small one, but my goodness it was worth it. It came with two small tubs of smoking chips (Alder and Hickory) and a big bag of oak.

my new smoker

I decided to try salmon as a  first attempt and so following the instructions, and using Alder chips as suggested, I set up the smoker. Twenty five minutes later I gently slid back the lid to reveal a lightly cooked, delicately and perfectly smoked piece of salmon. It was remarkably simple, yet pleasingly effective. Once it had cooled I gently pulled the salmon apart, tossing it with some new potatoes and salad, olive oil and a dollop of horseradish cream. This then formed part of my pick nick to take to the teens sports day on Saturday afternoon so I could test it out on friends . The unanimous verdict was that it was absolutely gorgeous!

doing its thing

perfect hot smoked salmon

There was a full house at supper club this weekend, which saw us celebrating the solstice or midsummer, a birthday dinner, an anniversary, and a welcome visit from two regulars and a new friend. It was moderately boisterous and it was nice to see people relaxed enough to come and chat in the kitchen. The menu for the evening of course celebrated the best of the season

Prosecco with Cassis (does that make it a Kir Royale, or a Prosecco Kir or just plain Kir?) with ricotta, parma ham, basil and balsamic vinegar topped bruschetta

The we said goodbye to the asparagus in style with mini asparagus and parmesan souffle tarts ( a variation on my souffle-gratin recipe) served with beetroot relish and carrots and courgette slaw

tarts ready to bakeplating tarts on the bench in the kitchen

For main it was hot smoked salmon with pan-fried new potatoes, baby broad beans, asparagus and chard and topped with horseradish cream. I collected the salmon bright and early from Mermaid seafood in Llandudno (sadly our only decent fishmongers locally) who stock a fantastic array of local and sustainable fish. The fillets were a really good size, unlike those you might get in the supermarket. I cannot  emphasise how much better it is to buy fish and meat from a specialist: It is fresher, often local and the portions are so much bigger. I don’t think there is much difference in price bu if buying on the high street is more expensive…well you certainly get more for your money!

All I did was season the salmon with salt and pepper and squeeze over some lime juice. For the horseradish cream I used a tub of creme fraiche which I seasoned with salt and pepper and a pinch of cayenne then stirred in enough horseradish to taste, but not so it is overpowering. I used English Provender horseradish which was excellent.

Ideally, if I’d had the finances, I would have bought the large smoker, but i had no idea how accommodating the small one would be. In the end I was only able to fit three salmon fillets in it at a time, so had to cook in four batches, but I gave myself plenty of time and kept the salmon warm in the bottom of the oven. It was a simple dish; but in this case less was definitely more!

The elder flowers heads were wrapped in muslin and chucked in to heat with milk and cream, to impart a delicate flowery taste to another simple, but effective dish; Elderflower pannacotta. The light creaminess complimented the sweet sharpness of a strawberry and red currant coulis and fresh berries. I think I even saw one person rubbing his finger across the plate to get every last flavourful bit of coulis.

As ever we completed the meal with local Welsh cheeses, crackers and coffee. This time we included two hard but mild goats cheeses from Y Cwt Caws, our usual smoked brie from Derimon, a blue Perl Las from Caws Cenarth in Cardigan and we were lucky enough to be asked to sample a new Brie from Rhyd y Delyn, which was delicious although needed to be slightly riper we all thought.

A few lovely comments about the night, the first from Paola (of Dr Zigs Dragon Bubbles…if you ever need seriously GIANT bubbles these are the guys to call!)

“Just had the most awesome scrummy yummy tastiest glorious omgoodnes meal EVER at Moel Faban secret supper club. And met the most wonderful people! And we Bubbled too!! This is one of those things that just must be experienced to be believed – and really should be on everyone’s bucket list”

and from Anouska whose birthday it was…

“I’ve been eating out with Non for the last ten years and she usually complains about something. This is the first time I have ever heard her say that everything was delicious”

Thanks everyone it was a great night xxx

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Filed under British food, Foraging for fruit, home cooking, local produce, secret supper, Sources and suppliers, sustainable fish, Uncategorized, underground restaurant, welsh cheese

Were jammin…and I hope you like jammin too!

I couldn’t resist adding the words of the great Bob Marley, since it was this song that kept popping into our heads as we slaved over a hot jam pot!

Life has been something of a trial this week, with various teenage shenanigans keeping us busy, and rather mentally and physically drained. The one ray of sunshine in an otherwise gloomy week has been the bit of pleasure gained from making and preserving all the lovely fruit we have in the garden and growing near by.  With summer now well and truly in bloom and our native summer fruits growing like mad it was time to take the initiative and make the most of it before the season passes (I can’t believe asparagus is already at an end!!)

And what a great way to lift the spirits!…a sunny days  fruit picking. It’s a great family day out, either relatively cheap, if not free and it doesn’t matter how old you are,  there is great fun to be had. Fruit picking can be anything from foraging for Bilberries on a mountain, stumbling across wild raspberries in the hedgerow or, for those city dwellers, simply taking a trip to a pick-your-own site, where you can greedily cram your baskets with as much fruit as possible (cramming half of it in your mouth along the way) and leaving with sticky red stained fingers and a load of brightly coloured summer treasures! I spend even more time picking now that I am selling produce as well.

At the moment we live on bowl after bowl of fresh strawberries, red currants and black currants, but I always keep in the back of my mind the thought that it will soon be over, so armed with that knowledge I always make sure I pick enough to make a good supply of jam, as well as sticking a few tubs in the freezer to whip out in the winter, when in need of a bit of summer cheer.

Strawberry and red currant jam:

I’ve often made red currant jelly and strawberry jam, but this combines both fruit to produce a slightly less sweet jam. I sold it at the Ogwen Agricultural show at the weekend and everyone that tasted it loved it! I guess it is a winning formula

I used just less sugar than fruit and had no problem reaching a set

1.5k strawberries (washed and hulled)

1.5k redcurrants (washed and stalks removed)

juice of 1 lemon

2.5k sugar

Put all the ingredients into a pan and slowly bring to the boil. Continue boiling fairly vigorously until a set is reached. You can tell if it’s reached a set by putting a teaspoon a saucer that has been placed in the freezer to chill. If the jam wrinkles when you drag a finger through it, it should be done. For ease I have invested in a jam thermometer, they are quite cheap and it should show you when the correct temperature has been reached. Boil at that temperature for about 10 minutes but keep checking for a set.

Once you have a set, pour the jam into clean, sterilised jars and put the lid on straight away. Leave to cool before labelling and storing. Jam should keep for up to a year (if not longer) if stored in a cool, dry, darkish place.

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Filed under baking, British food, Foraging for fruit, home cooking, preserving, Uncategorized